The Downey Central Office for LACOE stages just about everything, from the interviews to get you hired to professional development for staff, to employment convocations. The last time that I attended a metting in the Downey Office, I was contemplating whether I wanted to be a special ed teacher. I had received a provisional invitation about two weeks before, and I decided that just for kicks I would attend. This little meeting could be the last gasp, perhaps, in pursuing this career of public education, too.
At that point in my life, I was still playing with whether I wanted to a teacher still or not. The options were dwindling considerably for me. I even attended an interview over the Spring Break, and the Human Resources personnel called to verify with me my application for employment. Nothing came of it after that. The last school that I interviewed with, I now believe, was just looking for a substitute teacher, and I refused one more time to put in full-time work for part-time pay.
Back in Downey, LACOE needed special ed teachers, always has and always will. The demand for special ed staff will never diminish because federal law is exacting to the extreme when it comes to special education. Those "special students" need a teacher with the proper credentialing, no matter what, even if it means putting fifty students in the general ed classes.
The special ed department in schools throughout the Southland are suffering major shortages, too. he first class that I ever worked in, at Howard Wood, the teacher was a social studies teacher, but she got a special ed credential because she could not find a job. That was eight years ago, and since then it has gotten harder and harder for teachers to get a job in any field.
One retired teacher told me that a local middle school burned out fifteen teachers over three years. The job is just too much for the average, and even the above-average teacher. I still remember the special ed class at Hull Middle School, in which the full-time teacher was up in arms just trying to get through the day. I had sent out two students within about five seconds, only for the assistant in the classroom to tell me that they could not do that every day, because then he would get thrown out, and nothing more would be done. The whole affair in many schools is enough to make me sick when I look back on it. Even the madness that I walked into at Hawthorne High School was just just the muddy cherry on top of a terrible sundae of reams of paperwork, entitlement spending, and federal and state laws so taut and contradicting, that it is a miracle that a teacher can get through the day without breaking a law, getting sued, or being placed on administrative leave for the slightest of reasons.
In many cases, the teacher has to scramble and preepare for calsses for every peroid of the day, no down time whatsoever. A caseload of forty students may not seem like a lot, but the worst kid in a general ed class is not one sixth of the trouble that a special ed student can be. The task of maintaining order with five or six students per class, of making due with support staff who care more about making money instead of making your day go better.
I spoke with one woman from Fullerton, who was visiting relatives in the South Bay. She had served as a special teacher for a few years, but then she just got so burned out, that she had to give up the job. I roared with approval that she had made the choice to safeguard her sanity and sanctity. I hope that I see her again some day, just to let her know that the best is yet to come in her life.
I admired that she was willing to tell me how bad it was for her. I was really impressed that she had done so much, plus raise five kids at home, plus try to earn a Masters Degree.
"I don't know how I did it!" she calmly admitted to me. "I just don't know!"
I could not agree more. She was really putting out a lot of effort, and I was glad that she gave up on that travesty of a career.